As any experienced embroiderer knows, if you’re looking for beautiful results, stabilizer is important component when creating almost any embroidery project. In this article, I will explain all about embroidery machine stabilizers: What are the main types of stabilizers and when should I use them? What brand of stabilizer should I use?
A stabilizer (referred to in industrial circles as backing) is essential for machine embroidery. It is used to support the fabric during the stitching process to keep puckering or stretching from occurring. We will help you get more professional results and become a better embroiderer.
The choice of stabilizer can make or break an embroidery project. Using a stabilizer that is insufficient for the fabric or the stitch count of the design can make even the best-digitized design look bad.
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Table of Contents
Stabilizers are classified by the method used to remove the excess from the back of the project after the design has been stitched. The three most common types are:
Within each group are several weights of stabilizers.
- Select the weight that most closely corresponds to the importance of the fabric to be embroidered.
- Selecting the weight according to the design’s stitch count – the greater the stitch count, the heavier the stabilizer should be.
We are adhering any one of these stabilizers to the fabric with a temporary adhesive spray before hooping is recommended to keep the layers from shifting during the embroidery process and to make the item easier to hoop.
Why Is Stabilizer So Important? Stabilizers are the foundation of your embroidery and is a necessity to support your fabric and threads. Without the use of stabilizer the registration of the design may be off, you might have puckering, and your fabric may distort. Your choice of stabilizer can “make or break” your embroidery project.
Stabilizer is an important component of embroidery for several reasons:
Stabilizer helps keep the fabric from stretching or warping during the embroidery process, which can result in uneven or distorted stitching.
Stabilizer provides support for the fabric, especially when using lightweight or delicate fabrics that can be easily distorted by the movement of the embroidery needle.
Stabilizer helps keep the stitching from sinking into the fabric, which can result in a less defined or visible design.
Stabilizer can help prevent thread breakage, by providing a smooth and stable surface for the thread to move over.
Stabilizer can be used to add stiffness to certain areas of the fabric, such as collars or cuffs, to help keep the fabric from collapsing during the embroidery process.
Stabilizer can help prevent needle breakage by providing a stable surface for the needle to move over and reduces the stress on the needle.
Stabilizer can also be used to prevent fabric from fraying, by providing an extra layer between the fabric and the needle.
In general, stabilizer is essential for achieving a high-quality, professional-looking embroidery. It helps to ensure that the design is crisp, clean, and stable, and that the fabric is not distorted or damaged in the process.
Choosing a Stabilizer for an embroidery machine
The most important factors to consider when choosing a suitable stabilizer are: fabric, embroidery design, back appearance, and “Hand” or Feel
- The most important rule is — Use a cutaway stabilizer when embroidering on knits or stretchy fabrics.
The cutaway will support the stitches not only during the embroidery process itself but also during the lifetime of the garment.
- Fabric weight and stabilizer weight should be compatible. In general, the heavier the fabric, the heavier the stabilizer should be. Conversely, the lighter, softer, or more drapey the material, the lighter the weight of the stabilizer should be.
- A piece of sheer fabric will require a water-soluble stabilizer so that no remaining bits of stabilizer will be seen from the right side.
- The fabric and chosen design should be compatible.
A lightweight fabric can become overwhelmed by a stitch-intensive design. Conversely, an open, airy design can become visually lost in a napped or heavy fabric.
- The more stitches in a design, the heavier the stabilizer should be.
- Use a best digitized design with sufficient underlay to provide base support for the stitches.
- If you must use a particular type of stabilizer, choose the design accordingly.
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- If you want absolutely no stabilizer to show from the wrong side, you must use a water-soluble stabilizer.
- If you are OK with most of the stabilizer being removed, you can use a tear-away.
- When using a cutaway stabilizer, the excess must be cut away, leaving a circle of stabilizers on the backside of the project.
The “Hand” or Feel
- The weight and type of the stabilizer will influence the drape of the fabric.
– A heavyweight stabilizer will add weight to the garment, and a heavy tear-away stabilizer will add weight since some stabilizers will remain behind the stitches.
– The lighter the weight of the stabilizer, the greater the drape of the fabric will be.
– Awash away stabilizer will add no weight to the fabric after it is washed.
- The cut edges of a cutaway stabilizer remain on the backside of the project. The heavier the cutaway, the more irritating this edge could be on a garment that will be worn directly against the skin.
Testing is always highly recommended. Even though you follow all the stabilizer guidelines, they are
just that – guidelines. There are many variables in fabric quality within each fabric grouping and differences in the quality of the design. The best way to determine the proper stabilizer is to test.
*This test performed by Bernina Stitch counts are provided as a guideline only. There are many additional factors to consider, including design density. Design density is the relationship between the stitch count and design size. For example, a 4” design with 15,000 stitches will need a heavier stabilizer than an 8” design with the same number of stitches. For best results, do a test sew of your design.
Types of Embroidery Stabilizers
Technically, there are three types of embroidery stabilizers that are tear-away, wash-away and cut-away, we will also discuss some speciality stabilizers. Each of these three types of stabilizers may also be available as a fusible and or tacky.
What types of stabilizers should I use them? When making your decision on which type of stabilizer to use a good rule of thumb is to:
- Use a Tear Away Stabilizer if the fabric is stable and woven.
- If you can make sure to fuse your stabilizer with your fabric.
- Utilize the Cut Away stabilizer in the event that the fabric has stretch like sweatshirts, t-shirts or knits.
- Utilize a Wash Away when you are using sheer fabric or freestanding lace designs such as the Vintage Lace, 3D Flowers, 3D Butterflies, 3D Leaves, etc.
Apart from the three kinds of stabilizers available, the majority of brands also offer special products that you can use for your embroidery. These include fabric preparations to stabilize fabrics that break, stretch or pucker. It also will increase the stitch count of your fabric, making it perfect for the design of a high stitch count.
If You want to learn about the how to use and remove water-soluble stabilizer, then visit our blog.
There are products that offer different textures. They give a firm or a soft foam form that aids in the applique process without adding weight, and also make sure that the stitches are covered so they do not irritate the skin. They do not substitute for stabilizers by any means but they can all be used in conjunction with tear away or removed stabilizers.
Cutaway stabilizers are regarded as to be the most stable of the three types of stabilizers.
They can be applied to any kind of fabric but should be used for stitching on stretchy or knit fabrics. The stabilizer that is not used is removed but the stabilizer in front of the stitches will remain throughout the life of the fabric and will stop the design’s stitches from popping out when the garment is stretched or altered.
- Don’t attempt to cut open spaces within the design.
- Trim the design with scissors, but not more to 1/8 ” to 1/2 ” away from the design’s edge and trim any edges.
- Lay the project
on the stabilizer side facing up. Place the fabric between your fingers then cut it with the stabilizer. This will stop you from cutting the fabric!
Heavy Weight Cut-Away
- Available in black or white
- Ideal for sweatshirts and luxurious fabrics.
- The strongest stabilizer can support the greatest amount of stitches
Medium Weight Cut-Away
- Ideal for medium-weight T-shirts and fabrics
- It will offer better support than smaller cut, but it will be less rigid than a more heavyweight
- Available in beige, white and black
- Very little shadow that reaches one side
- Soft and soft on the skin
- Tiny shadows when used on a weave fabric like batiste
- Ideal for baby or children’s clothes and stretchy, lightweight fabrics
- White PolyMesh is also available in a fusible version (see specialties Stabilizers)
Tear-away stabilizers are used when you wish to remove most of the excess stabilizers from the back of the project after embroidery. They can be used on all fabrics, with the exception of stretchy fabric or knits or very sheer fabrics.
- Place the embroidery with the stabilizer side up on a flat surface.
- Support the stitches with your fingers as carefully tear the excess stabilizer away.
- Some tight open areas within the design may be tough to remove and can be left on the back of the project. For most tear-away stabilizers, these areas will eventually begin to disintegrate with repeated washings.
Heavy Weight Tear-Away
- It supports a large number of stitches
- Tears away very cleanly and easily – stiff edges are easy to grasp
- Great for items that need more support for heavier stitch count designs
Medium Weight Tear-Away
- Available only in black
- Firm tear away, but very easy to remove
Ultra Clean and Tear
- A soft, medium weight tear-away stabilizer
- Removes very easily – does not stress the stitches as it is removed
- The remaining fibers will easily wash away as the project is laundered
Light Weight Tear-Away
- Easy to tear away, leaving a very clean edge
- It can be printed on and used for paper piecing
- Available in a fusible version (See Specialty Stabilizer section)
- Great for use when stitching decorative stitches on the sewing side
- The lightest weight of the tear-away stabilizers – adds very little weight to the project
Wash away stabilizers should be used when all traces of the stabilizer need to be removed from the back of the project, such as when using a sheer fabric or embroidering a project that will be seen from the backside as well front. Since this type of stabilizer does not support as many stitches as tear-away or cutaway stabilizers, careful consideration should be given to the design choice. Do not use this stabilizer if your fabric cannot be washed. click here to learn about embroidery threads.
- When creating lace, the more it is washed, the softer the lace will be.
- Remove as much stabilizer as possible by tearing or cutting away the excess.
- Rinse the project under warm running water until all traces of the stabilizer are removed.
- Too lightweight for stand-alone lace
- A clear, lightweight backing – quick to rinse away
- Use for quilting in the hoop if the quilt itself cannot be hooped
- A heavy clear backing
- It can be used for stand-alone lace
- The majority of stabilizers can be torn away before rinsing
- It can be used in the creation of stand-alone lace
- An opaque backing that supports the most significant number of stitches
- Excess cannot be torn away – cut the lot away from the outer edges and then rinse
- A very stable water-soluble stabilizer that is not prone to premature perforation during stitching
1: Fusible Stabilizers
Fusible stabilizers are used by cutting a hoop-sized piece of stabilizer and adhering it to the back of the fabric. This will prevent stretching of the fabric during the hooping process and will help to keep outlines correctly registered. The fabric/stabilizer is then hooped in the traditional manner.
Fusible Poly Mesh Cutaway Fusible Tear Away
- Remove the excess by either cutting away the Fusible PolyMesh or tearing away the Fusible Tear Away.
- Lightly adhere the adhesive side of the stabilizer to the back of the project in the area to be embroidered.
- After the embroidery has finished, carefully separate the stabilizer from the fabric (heating with iron very briefly may aid in this).
2: Paper-Backed Pressure Sensitive Adhesive Stabilizers
These stabilizers are used in the same manner. They are all coated with the same type of pressure-sensitive adhesive with a protective paper backing.
The difference will be in the number of stitches that the stabilizer will support as well as the manner in which the excess stabilizer is removed. Select the stabilizer type (cutaway, tear away, or water-soluble) by applying the same principles as if using a regular stabilizer. (Refer to the earlier page on stabilizers.)
Most generally, these stabilizers are used for “hoopless” embroidery.
Stabil-Stick Cutaway Stabil-Stick Tear Away
SQUAMISH PLUS (WATER-SOLUBLE)
- Hoop with the paper side up.
- Score and remove the paper to reveal the sticky surface.
- Position the fabric over the sticky surface and smooth it into place.
- Separate the stabilizer from the fabric by gently pulling the layers apart.
- Remove the excess by either cutting, tearing, or washing it away, depending on the type of stabilizer used.
Check out 4 Best Embroidery Machines with detailed reviews pros and cons. Note we are not selling embroidery machines. Our comparison is 100% neutral.
3: Water Activated Stabilizer
Hydro-Stick Tear Away
Hydro-Stick is a heavyweight tear-away stabilizer with an adhesive coating that is activated by water. It is most often used for “hoopless” embroidery.
HydroStick holds the fabric VERY firmly. The project cannot be accidentally bumped or moved out of place during the embroidery process.
It will not gum the needles since it is not a sticky adhesive.
- Hoop the stabilizer with the coated side up.
- Allow the stabilizer to dry for a few minutes before embroidering.
- Moisten the top slightly with water and adhere the fabric to the top of the hooped stabilizer.
- Continue to lift and moisten until the stabilizer has been separated. Then tear the excess away.
- Lift a loose corner of the stabilizer and apply moisture to the area between the stabilizer and the back of the fabric.
As the name implies, toppings are used only on the top of the fabric to control the nap of the fabric. They are too lightweight to be used as the backing stabilizer.
- A clear water-soluble product – excess easily removed with water
- Improves the appearance of the embroidery design on any fabric with any kind of an irregular weave
- Must be used on napped fabrics such as towels, knits, velvets, or velveteens to prevent the nap of the fabric from poking through the stitches
- Place the AquaFilm over the top of the hooped fabric. Aquarium does not need to be hooped with the fabric, but it does need to be secured.
Moisten the corners and attach to the fabric; use Painter’s Tape or pins (carefully placed outside the stitching area) to hold the AquaFilm in place.
Use a design basting box or a hoop basting box to further secure the AquaFilm. Slow the machine down to its slowest speed as the basting box is stitched. Using the foot control on your machine will also give you greater control.
- The remainder can be rinsed away with water.
- Carefully tear away as much of the aquarium as possible.
TopCover is a vinyl-type product that prevents the color of the fabric from showing through the stitches as well as controlling the nap.
It is ideal for use when stitching light designs on dark fabric, or vice versa. The top cover behind the stitches will remain there throughout the lifetime of the project.
- Place TopCover over the top of the hooped fabric. It does not need to be hooped with the fabric, but it does need to be secured.
Use Painter’s Tape or pins to hold it securely.
Use a design basting box or a hoop basting box to further secure the top cover. Slow the machine down to its slowest speed as the basting box is stitched. Using the foot control on your machine will also give you greater control.
- The needle perforations will make it easy to remove the excess. Tear away as much as possible.
- Tiny bits that cannot be torn away can be liquefied away with the tip of the iron. Be SURE to clean the iron after this use.
Guide Conclusion: You Need All 3 Types of Embroidery Stabilizers
Stabilizers come in different sizes and colours and are used for other fabrics and design types. Depending on what you embroider, you do need the three main types of stabilizers:
- Tear Away: used for any stable woven fabric that doesn’t stretch, such as leather, towels, vinyl.
- Wash Away: used for any sheer fabrics, such as organza, freestanding lace, 3D and cutwork designs.
- Cut Away: used for worn and washed products regularly—the most stable and good to use for heavy designs with large stitch counts.
The best stabilizer for embroidery depends on the type of fabric and the design being embroidered. Here are a few common types of stabilizers used in embroidery and their ideal uses:
Tearaway stabilizer: This type of stabilizer is a lightweight, non-woven material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the stabilizer is torn away, leaving a clean, stable embroidered design. Tearaway stabilizer is ideal for use on lightweight fabrics such as cotton, linen, and silk.
Cutaway stabilizer: This type of stabilizer is a dense, non-woven material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the excess stabilizer is cut away, leaving a stable embroidered design. Cutaway stabilizer is ideal for use on medium-weight fabrics such as denim, twill, and canvas.
Heat-away stabilizer: This type of stabilizer is a heat-sensitive material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the stabilizer is removed by applying heat, such as ironing, leaving a stable embroidered design. Heat-away stabilizer is ideal for use on fabrics such as knit, fleece, and velvet.
Water-soluble stabilizer: This type of stabilizer is a dissolvable material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the stabilizer is removed by dissolving it in water, leaving a stable embroidered design. Water-soluble stabilizer is ideal for use on delicate fabrics such as silk, organza, and lace.
Heavyweight stabilizer: This type of stabilizer is a heavy-duty, non-woven material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the stabilizer is left in place, providing a stable embroidered design. Heavyweight stabilizer is ideal for use on heavy fabrics such as leather, vinyl, and upholstery.
It’s important to note that some fabrics may require more than one type of stabilizer to achieve the best results. It’s also recommended to test the stabilizer on a small piece of the fabric before starting the embroidery.
Dryer sheets can be used as an embroidery stabilizer in some cases, but it is not a recommended method. Dryer sheets are meant to be used to reduce static cling and add a pleasant fragrance to clothes. They are not specifically designed for embroidery, and therefore may not provide the same level of support and stability as a dedicated embroidery stabilizer.
Dryer sheets may not be strong enough to provide the necessary support for the fabric during the embroidery process, which can result in distorted or uneven stitching. Additionally, dryer sheets may not be able to withstand the heat and pressure of the embroidery needle and may melt or disintegrate during the embroidery process.
It’s important to use the correct type of stabilizer that is suitable for the type of fabric and design you’re working on, so that the embroidery will look neat and professional. And if you want to make sure that your embroidery will look perfect, it’s recommended to use a stabilizer that is specifically designed for embroidery.
Stabilizing a t-shirt for embroidery is an important step to ensure that the embroidery design comes out looking neat and professional. Here are a few steps you can take to stabilize a t-shirt for embroidery:
Use a tear-away stabilizer: Apply a layer of tear-away stabilizer to the back of the t-shirt, covering the area where the design will be embroidered. This will prevent the fabric from stretching or warping during the embroidery process.
Hoop the t-shirt: Carefully hoop the t-shirt, making sure that the fabric is taut but not stretched. This will keep the fabric from moving or shifting during the embroidery process.
Use a topping: A topping is a light, sheer fabric that is placed on top of the design to protect the design from the embroidery needle and prevents the fabric from getting distorted.
Adjust your machine tension: Adjust the tension of your embroidery machine to ensure that the stitching is tight enough to keep the fabric from moving, but not so tight that it causes the fabric to pucker or stretch.
Test your design: Before starting your embroidery, test your design on a scrap piece of the same fabric to make sure that the design is coming out correctly and that the fabric is stable.
Slow your machine speed down: Embroidering on knit fabrics like t-shirts can be tricky, because knit fabrics tend to stretch and move more than woven fabrics. To reduce this effect, you can slow your machine speed down.
It’s important to note that the best way to stabilize a t-shirt for embroidery is by using a combination of the above methods, because each fabric has its own characteristics and may require different types of stabilizer. Also, it’s always a good idea to test your stabilizing method on a small piece of the fabric before starting your.
One piece of medium-weight cutaway stabilizer is the best choice. The tear-away stabilizer may be used with the lightest designs, such as toile or vintage, and when topping is unnecessary.
Cutaway, you trim with scissors around the back of the design and tear away just tears away. Usually, with cutaway, you trim but leave some around the design (on the backside).
When embroidering on polyester fabric, it is recommended to use a tear-away or a cutaway stabilizer. These types of stabilizers provide a stable surface for the embroidery needle to move on and can be easily removed after the embroidery is complete.
Tear-away stabilizer is a lightweight, non-woven material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the stabilizer is torn away, leaving a clean, stable embroidered design. Tear-away stabilizer is ideal for use on lightweight fabrics and can be used on polyester fabrics.
Cutaway stabilizer is a dense, non-woven material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the excess stabilizer is cut away, leaving a stable embroidered design. Cutaway stabilizer is ideal for use on medium-weight fabrics and can be used on polyester fabrics as well.
It’s important to note that when working on polyester fabrics, it’s always a good idea to test your stabilizing method on a small piece of the fabric before starting your embroidery project, this will ensure the best results. Additionally, when using a cutaway stabilizer, make sure to trim the excess stabilizer as close as possible to the embroidery design to avoid any visible residue.
Embroidery backing, also known as stabilizer, is a material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering to provide support and stability for the fabric during the embroidery process. There are several different types of backing that can be used for embroidery, each with their own unique characteristics and uses.
Tear-away stabilizer: This type of backing is a lightweight, non-woven material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the stabilizer is torn away, leaving a clean, stable embroidered design. Tear-away stabilizer is ideal for use on lightweight fabrics such as cotton, linen, and silk.
Cutaway stabilizer: This type of backing is a dense, non-woven material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the excess stabilizer is cut away, leaving a stable embroidered design. Cutaway stabilizer is ideal for use on medium-weight fabrics such as denim, twill, and canvas.
Water-soluble stabilizer: This type of backing is a dissolvable material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the stabilizer is removed by dissolving it in water, leaving a stable embroidered design. Water-soluble stabilizer is ideal for use on delicate fabrics such as silk, organza, and lace.
Heat-away stabilizer: This type of backing is a heat-sensitive material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the stabilizer is removed by applying heat, such as ironing, leaving a stable embroidered design. Heat-away stabilizer is ideal for use on fabrics such as knit, fleece, and velvet.
Heavyweight stabilizer: This type of backing is a heavy-duty, non-woven material that is applied to the back of the fabric before embroidering. After the embroidery is complete, the stabilizer is left in place, providing a stable embroidered design. Heavyweight stabilizer is ideal for use on heavy fabrics such as leather, vinyl, and upholstery.
It’s important to note that the best type of backing to use will depend on the type of fabric, the design and the type of embroidery you’re working on. It’s always a good idea to test the backing on a small piece of the fabric before starting your embroidery project.
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1 thought on “Machine Embroidery Stabilizers | Complete Guides”
Hey, thank you for the good explanation. As a newbie in this business, I have a problem with the no-show mesh stabilizer. The problem is, when I make test of the t-shirt after first washing, these little cross symbols from the stabilizer appear on the embroidery part and it isn’t look so nice. Any suggestions to handle that problem?